Miller received his A.B. summa cum laude in 1937, an A.M. in psychology in 1938, an M.D. cum laude in 1942, and a Ph.D. in psychology in 1943, all from Harvard University where he was also a junior fellow of the Society of Fellows. Following military service in World War II, he served as Chief of the newly formed Clinical Psychology section of the Veteran's Administration central office in Washington.
Having served on the faculty at Harvard, in 1948 he accepted the position of Chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago, which he held until 1955. From 1955 to 1967 he directed the multi-disciplinary Mental Health Research Institute at the University of Michigan, leaving in 1967 to pursue an administrative career, first as provost of the newly founded Cleveland State University, and then in 1973 as president of the University of Louisville, from which position he retired in 1980.